Singer Lenny Cocco, who in a nearly 60-year career became a doo-wop mainstay throughout the metropolitan area, died May 8 at his home in Holbrook, of undisclosed causes. He was 78.
"He was a small man in stature but a man with a very big heart," said his son, Leonard Cocco Jr., a retired New York City police officer. "Whenever anybody called him for any charitable event, he would give of his own free time and will. Years ago when we had the Oklahoma City bombing, he had his own music production company back then, and did a fundraiser show and went to Oklahoma and presented Gov. Keating with a check."
Born in Brooklyn, Leonard Cocco Sr. formed the group The Capris in 1957, renaming the quintet The Chimes after learning of a Rockaway Beach band with the former name. In 1961, The Chimes reached No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with the Tommy Dorsey hit "Once in a While," followed that year with the standard "I'm in the Mood for Love," which peaked at No. 38. The group performed in venues including The Howard in Washington, D.C., the Regal in Chicago and the Apollo in Harlem, and by 1962 was recording as Lenny & The Chimes.
Other singles followed as the group changed record labels from Tag to Metro to Laurie, and became a quartet after bass singer Pat McGuire was killed by a drunken driver in 1963. Lenny & The Chimes disbanded after releasing the single "Two Times" on Vee Jay in 1964, but the group, anchored by Cocco, formed again in the early 1970s and became an ongoing local doo-wop presence. Lenny & The Chimes continued with various personnel until their final show March 21 as part of an oldies concert at the NYCB Theatre at Westbury.
When not leading The Chimes, Cocco, whose friends included radio personality "Cousin Brucie" Morrow and others in the local music industry, drove a truck for a sausage company, worked at a printing press in Lindenhurst, and did security for Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip for 15 years until retiring in January 2013.
In addition to his son of East Islip, Cocco is survived by his wife Jennie of Holbrook; daughters, Maria Cocco-Modica of Islip Terrace and Andrea Cocco-Collins of Holbrook; nine grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.